Sydney Swans co-captain Callum Mills’ elevation to captain was a moment years in the making.
Mills, a product of the QBE Sydney Swans Academy, was elevated to Sydney’s leadership group during the 2018 pre-season at the age of just 21.
Now 24, Mills has played 110 games for the Swans. He joined the club as a first round draft selection in the 2015 AFL draft, making his debut the following year and earning the 2016 AFL Rising Star Award.
Assistant Coach Ben Mathews has revealed that there are others following in his footsteps, with many of Mills' young teammates developing as leaders.
“Callum has been in the leadership group since he was about 21 and now he is a captain of the footy club, which is a fantastic story and a great progression as well," Mathews said.
"You then look at the next group coming through – is it a Nick Blakey? Tommy McCartin is another one that is showing great leadership qualities, or Justin McInerney who keeps pushing himself up in a leadership sense to grow his ability to influence the team.
"These guys that are young, 22 or 23 years old, and are getting up to that sort of age will be the next group group that we want to see emerge."
“Even the likes of Errol Gulden - he’s a second-year player but he already has great influence on the group through his training habits and his work ethic," Mathews added.
"It doesn’t matter what age you are, you can have influence over your team mates and those guys are the sort of guys that are putting their hand up for leadership.”
The Swans enjoyed their first high intensity hit out last Friday, and Mathews explains it’s these competitive match plays that put players pre-season training to the test.
“We did 60 minutes of competitive work last week which is a step forward for the group. We’ve got strong numbers out there on the track. All things are pointing towards the guys really attacking the upcoming practice matches against GWS and North Melbourne really strongly,” says Mathews.
“Logan McDonald is playing around 20-40 minutes of match play, Buddy (Lance Franklin) will play a bit more this week, Callum Mills will be back in in a couple of weeks as well.
"We want to see our game style come into effect. Offensive work, defensive work, how we set up behind the ball and certainly our work in and around our contest.
"That’s a real area that we’ve identified that top four teams are the best at. We want to certainly improve in that area, and to hopefully stay healthy it gives you the best chance.”